Remember when chores were fun?
Yeah, me neither. Actually, that’s not quite true. As a kid, I remember begging my mom to let me take over vacuuming duties. There is something oddly satisfying about taking something dirty and making it clean, you know?
Being as I’ve always been a bit of a teacher’s (or parent’s) pet, I loved the metaphorical round of applause my parents would give me for pitching in around the house. My tired mom and dad acted like I’d handed over enough gold to fund their early retirement, and I liked being a helper. Mom didn’t call me “little mother” — for all the squealing I did on my sister — for nothing.
Twenty years later, my son is following in my footsteps. Oliver goes positively crazy when he sees the vacuum — which, I guess, is good? Early in parenthood, a cousin advised me not to make our house a “quiet zone” for the baby. Her own daughters would sleep through a nuclear apocalypse, it seems, because she and her husband refused to muffle sounds at nap time. They weren’t intentionally slamming cabinets or anything, but the murmur of a television or whir of appliances were just par for the course. The hum of daily life.
That was wise advice. When Ollie came home, we planted his bassinet in the middle of the living room while we made phone calls, caught up on favorite TV shows and answered emails during naps. The impulse to shush everyone and everything to make sure a sleeping baby stays that way is hard to deny, but it was smart to get Oliver used to household noises. It lets us actually remain functioning members of said household.
So he paid no attention to the vacuum in the early days. I didn’t want him to be afraid of it, opting to keep the suction hose far away from curious hands. But I never imagined he would actually . . . like it. A big, loud, monster-like machine sucking up dust, dirt and Mommy’s Oreo crumbs? Seems strange, but it’s true.
From my years of manning the vacuum at home with my parents, my designated weekly chore, I’m now mildly obsessed with clean floors. It doesn’t help that we installed beige carpet after move-in. Every shredded leaf, speck of lint and blade of grass might as well be painted neon; I see it all with razor-sharp vision. And it makes me crazy.
So I vacuum a lot. The sink may be full of dishes, a month’s worth of mail dropped in the hallway, a thousand toy blocks creating a hazard on the love seat — but my floors? My floors are clean. It’s the one shred of dignity I have remaining.
As soon as Oliver sees me heading toward the hall closet, he knows what’s about to happen — and loses his baby mind. He claps. He hops up and down. He follows so close behind me that I can’t physically open the closet door, then reaches for the vacuum before I can.
My toddler clamors so furiously for the vacuum that I can’t actually vacuum. At all. My husband tries to appease him by handing snacks over while Ollie is imprisoned in his high chair, but nothing distracts him from his beloved machine.
If he is free to move about, Oliver will scramble behind and try to yank the cord from the wall or grab the suction hose. He will plant himself directly in my path, laughing like a maniac while impeding my progress.
I don’t know if it’s the cords, the noise, the power . . . or all of the above. Whatever it is, Oliver can’t get enough.
When left to my own devices, I can clean the downstairs in 15 minutes. With Oliver there, I’m lucky to get it done at all. Spencer tries taking him outside, taking him upstairs, distracting him with any number of toys . . . but nothing works. He fights out of Spencer’s arms until he’s achieved freedom, and then he’s back.
Thing is, Oliver is so clearly overjoyed at the sight of the vacuum that I feel like a monster keeping them apart. Like Calvin and Hobbes, Charlie Brown and Linus, Ollie sees his pal as the yin to his yang. Same goes for the spot-cleaner. Oh, friends, the sheer joy of a 1-year-old “helping” while his father attempts to clean coffee stains from our living room carpet. Oliver got ahold of a spare brush from the little wet vac and was mimicking Spencer’s movements — and doing a pretty thorough job, if I may say so.
Let’s just hope his enthusiasm continues a decade from now.
We need all the help we can get.